Actors: Xu Zheng, Karen Mok
Director: Leste Chen
Format: Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, THX, Widescreen
Region: Region 1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Well Go USA
DVD Release Date: April 5, 2016
Run Time: 104 minutes
As I watched The Great Hypnotist, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something being lost in the translation. There is a fantastic tradition of dialogue-heavy narratives with two characters verbally dueling through a series of twists and revelations, and this certainly seems to be a fitting categorization for this film as well, but it had little success in captivating my attention. This is why I wondered if it was the subtitle translation preventing me from becoming gripped by the dialogue, or if it were merely uninspired writing to blame.
The basic premise for The Great Hypnotist is also vaguely familiar, setting up the narrative with an expositional sequence introducing us to world renowned psychologist, Ruining Xu (Xu Zheng). The plot moves along quickly in the beginning, but this is only in its rush to get to the primary chunk of the narrative, which slows down the pace dramatically. He agrees to take on a new patient named Xiaoyan Ren (Karen Mok) and their first session is the remainder of the film. Xiaoyan is able to match Ruining’s intelligence and the dialogue becomes a battle of wit and will between the two.
There are many twists and turns in the narrative, which I won’t reveal here, though I will say that the revelation was not nearly as impactful as the mystery itself. There is also some stylistic misdirection which may lead some audiences to believe that the film belongs in a different genre than suspense. While I’m glad that this did not devolve into a ghost story, I’m not sure that the approach to the material highlight’s the screenplay’s strengths. This is a thoughtful drama which should be grounded by the performances of its leads, but instead tries throwing flashy visuals and eerie suspense at the audience as a distraction until the final reveal. My disinterest in the film may be partially due to my inability to understand Mandarin, but there are some aspects of visual storytelling which cannot be explained away by a language barrier.
Entertainment Value: 6/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6.5/10
Historical Significance: 3/10